Estate of Raymond J. Guziewicz et al v. Magnotta
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry), 30 MOTION to Amend/Correct 1 Complaint filed by Estate of Raymond J. Guziewicz, Steven J. Guziewicz, re 49 MOTION to Clarify filed by Steven J. Guziewicz, 37 MOTION to Stay Proceedings filed by Steven J. Guziewicz. Signed by Magistrate Judge Joseph F. Saporito, Jr on 1/25/17. (jam)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
ESTATE OF RAYMOND J.
GUZIEWI CZ, et al.
: CIVIL ACTION NO.: 3:14-cv-01742
: (CAPUTO, J.)
: (SAPORITO, M.J.)
RENEE P. MAGNOTTA,
This civil action was initiated by the filing of a pro se complaint
against the defendant, Renee P. Magnotta ("Magnotta"), on September 8,
2014. (Doc. 1). The two named plaintiffs in the complaint are (a) the
Estate of Raymond J. Guziewicz (the "Estate") and (b) his son, Steven J.
Guziewicz, appearing both individually and in his role as administrator
for the Estate. Steven Guziewicz has asserted federal civil rights claims
under U.S.C. §1983 and state law tort claims for malicious prosecution
and abuse of process on behalf of the decedent, Raymond J. Guziewicz. On
his own behalf, Steven Guziewicz has asserted a single state law tort
claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress which was dismissed
by the court on September 20, 2016. (Doc. 47).
Before the court is the plaintiffs' motion to amend the complaint
(Doc. 30). Attached to the motion is the proposed amended complaint.
(Doc. 30-1). In the proposed amended complaint, the plaintiffs seek to add
Jerome Smith as a defendant. The amended complaint alleges that Mr.
Smith was defendant Magnotta's immediate supervisor. The motion is
fully briefed and ripe for disposition. (Docs. 26, 27).
According to the complaint, on January 27, 2012, arrest warrants
were issued for Raymond J. Guziewicz ("Raymond") and Steven J.
Guziewicz ("Steven") at the request of Magnotta, an agent of the Office of
the Attorney General of Pennsylvania assigned to the Bureau of Narcotics
Investigation. (Doc. 1
if if 5, 10). Magnotta is sued in her individual
if 6). On January 31, 2012, Raymond was arrested by the
Scranton City Police Department on the authority of the arrest warrant.
He was charged with fifty-two felonies and twenty-six misdemeanors
under the Pennsylvania Crimes Code and Drug, Device, and CosmeticAct.
Raymond was incarcerated for four days until he posted bail on February
3, 2012. On September 6, 2012, all of the charges against Raymond were
dismissed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania because his arrest
lacked probable cause. (Id.
Steven spent eighteen months in prison and was sentenced to time
served on December 18, 2013, after pleading guilty to one felony count of
acquiring a controlled substance. (Id.
if 22). Steven alleged that he was
forced to plead guilty after three potential alibi witnesses had died before
Steven's trial date of September 23, 2013. (Id.). In addition, it is alleged
that Magnotta had a pattern of arresting Raymond and Steven since 2005
in order to extract guilty pleas from Steven notwithstanding a lack of
probable cause to support the charges against Raymond. (Id.
Steven is the administrator of Raymond's estate and brings this
action in both his individual capacity and in his role as administrator of
The plaintiffs move to amend the complaint on the basis that the
proposed defendant, Jerome Smith, was Magnotta's immediate supervisor
at or near the events giving rise to the action and he knew or should have
known of Magnotta' s propensity for filing criminal charges which were not
supported by probable cause.
Also, before us for disposition is the plaintiffs' motion to stay
proceedings (Doc. 37) and motion to clarify (Doc. 49). For the reasons
stated herein we will grant the motion to amend, and deny, as moot, the
motions to stay proceedings and to clarify.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) sets out the standard for
granting leave to amend a complaint when, as is the case here, a
responsive pleading has been served: "a party may amend its pleading
only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave." Fed.
R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). The Rule clearly states that "[t]he court should freely
give leave when justice so requires." Id. Nonetheless, the policy favoring
liberal amendments is not "unbounded." Dole v. Arco Chem. Co., 921 F.2d
484, 487 (3d Cir. 1990). The decision whether to grant or to deny a motion
for leave to amend rests within the sound discretion of the district court.
Foman v. Davis, 371U.S.178, 182 (1962); Waterfront Renaissance Assoc.
v. Philadelphia, 701 F. Supp. 2d 633, 639 (E.D. Pa. 2010). A district court
may deny leave to amend a complaint where "it is apparent from the
record that (1) the moving party has demonstrated undue delay, bad faith,
or dilatory motives, (2) the amendment would be futile, or (3) the
amendment would prejudice the other party." Lake v. Arnold, 232 F.3d
360, 373 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Foman, 371 U.S. at 182). The mere passage
of time does not r'equire that a motion to amend a complaint be denied on
grounds of delay. Adams v. Gould, Inc., 739 F.2d 858, 868 (3d Cir. 1984).
In fact, delay alone is an insufficient ground to deny leave to amend.
Cornell & Co., Ine. v. Occupational Safety & Health Review Comm'n., 573
F.2d 820, 823 (3d Cir. 1978).
However, "at some point, the delay will
become 'undue,' placing an unwarranted burden on the court, or will
placing an unfair burden on the opposing party."
Adams, 739 F.2d at 868. Delay may become undue when a movant has
had previous opportunities to amend a complaint. See Lorenz v. CSX
Corp., 1F.3d1406, 1414 (3d Cir. 1993) (three-year lapse between filing of
complaint and proposed amendment was "unreasonable" delay where
plaintiff had "numerous opportunities" to amend); see also Rolo v. City
Investing Co. Liquidating Tr., 155 F.3d 644, 654-55 (3d Cir. 1998)
(rejecting proposed second amended complaint where plaintiffs were
repleading facts that could have been pled earlier). Here, we find no
undue delay on the part of Steven.
Motion to Amend Complaint
Magnotta opposes the motion to amend the complaint contending
that we should prevent the amendment from relating back to the date the
original complaint was filed because the statute of limitations has expired.
(Doc. 33, at 4). The pertinent provision which refers to the relation-back
of amendments is set out in Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c) as follows:
Relation Back of Amendments.
When Amendment Relates Back. An
amendment to a pleading relates back to the date
of the original pleading when:
the law that provides the applicable statute
of limitations allows relation back;
the amendment asserts a claim or defense
that arose out of the conduct, transaction, or
occurrence set out-or attempted to be set
out-in the original pleading; or
the amendment changes the party or the
naming of the party against w horn a claim is
asserted, if Rule 15(c)(l)(B) is satisfied and if,
within the period provided by Rule 4(m) for
serving the summons and complaint, the
party to be brought in by amendment:
received such notice of the action that it
will not be prejudiced in defending on
the merits; and
knew or should have known that the
action would have been brought against
it, but for a mistake concerning the
proper party's identity.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c).
The issue in the case is whether the plaintiffs can use Rule 15(c) to
the proposed amended complaint, adding Jerome Smith as a defendant,
relate back to September 8, 2014, the date which the original complaint
was filed. Courts interpret Rule 15(c) as imposing certain conditions, all
of which must be met for a successful relation back of an amended
complaint that seeks to add a newly named defendant. Singletary v.
Pennsylvania De·p't of Corr., 266 F.3d 186 (3d Cir. 2001). For a court to
grant an amendment adding a defendant that relates back to the original
complaint, the party seeking to amend must meet all of the following
requirements: (1) The claim or defense asserted by amendment must
arise out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set out in the original
pleading; (2) the new party named in the amended pleading must have
received such notice of the action that it will not be prejudiced; (3) the new
party either knew or should have known that the action would have been
brought against it, but for a mistake concerning the proper party's
identity; and (4) the notice and knowledge factors must be satisfied within
the 120-day period provided for service of the original complaint. Garvin
v. City of Philadelphia, 354 F.3d 215, 220 (3d Cir. 2003).
The claims set forth in the motion to amend arose out of the conduct
set forth in the complaint which satisfies the first prong of the criteria.
The resolution of the motion to amend requires an analysis of factors
two, and three-the notice/prejudice components of Rule 15(c)(l)(C). The
plaintiffs assert in their motion and supporting brief that the proposed
defendant, Jerome Smith, was Magnotta's immediate supervisor, that the
plaintiffs were unable to determine the identity of the supervising agent
before filing the complaint, and that they exercised due diligence
thereafter to acquire that information. (Doc. 30
In the proposed
amended complaint, the plaintiffs aver that Smith was Magnotta's
supervisor at the time she completed her investigation against Raymond
and at the time she filed criminal charges against them on January 27,
2012. (Doc. 30-1 if22). The plaintiffs, further allege therein that: (1) Smith
was aware of a 2010 federal civil action filed against Magnotta alleging
she filed numerous unfounded criminal charges against another individual
(id.); (2) Smith knew or should have known of the eleven-month delay in
the filing of charges against Raymond after the investigation was
completed (id. if 23); (3) Smith acquiesced in the unduly delayed charges
and was aware that there was no evidence to support the charges against
irir 22, 23); and (4) Smith took no action to prevent the
charges from being filed despite his knowledge that probable cause did not
exist (id. if 25). ·
The final element of Rule 15(c)(l)(C) requires a plaintiff to show that
within 120 days of filing the original complaint, the newly added
defendant knew or should have known that the present action would have
been brought against him but for a mistake regarding his identity. 1 Here,
Magnotta argues that the plaintiffs' amendment should not relate back to
the date the complaint was filed because there is no basis to conclude that
By order dated June 23, 2015, we deemed the complaint properly
filed on that date (Doc. 29) despite that it was originally filed on
September 8, 2014. (Doc. 1).
the proposed defendant knew or should have known that the plaintiffs'
action should have been brought against him.
With regard to this
element, the Supreme Court has recently held that the starting inquiry
focuses on whether the newly-added party knew or should have known
that, absent some mistake, the lawsuit would have been brought against
him or her. Krupski v. Costa Crociere S.p.A., 560 U.S. 538, 541 (2010)
("We hold that relation back under Rule 15(c)(l)(C) depends on what the
party to be added knew or should have known, not on the amending
party's knowledge or its timeliness in seeking to amend the pleading.");
see also Siciliano·v. City of Philadelphia, No. 09-5270, 2010 WL 3069611,
at *2 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 2, 2010) ("In evaluating the notice requirements, the
focus is on what the defendant to be added knew or should have known,
not what the plaintiffs knew or when they took action to move to amend.
The knowledge of the amending party is not a factor in a Rule 15(c)(l)(C)
analysis.") (citation omitted). Specifically, the Supreme Court stated that
under Rule 15(c)(l)(C)(ii), it is not whether the plaintiff knew or should
have known the identity of the newly-added party as the proper
defendant, but whether the prospective defendant knew or should have
known that it would have been named as a defendant but for an error in
identity. Krupski, 560 U.S. at 548.
However, "[i]nformation in the plaintiff's possession is relevant ...
if it bears on the defendant's understanding of whether the plaintiff made
a mistake regarding the proper party's identity" as opposed to a fully
informed decision to sue one party instead of another "while fully
understanding the factual and legal differences between the two parties."
Id. at 548. The latter would be "the antithesis of making a mistake
concerning the proper party's identity." Id. Moreover, a plaintiffs
knowledge of a party's existence does not necessarily "preclude her from
making a mistake with respect to that party's identity." Id.
A plaintiff might know that the prospective
defendant exists but nonetheless harbor a
misunderstanding about his status or role in the
events giving rise to the claim at issue, and she
may mistakenly choose to sue a different defendant
based on that misimpression. That kind of
deliberate but mistaken choice does not foreclose a
finding that Rule 15(c)(l)(C)(ii) has been satisfied.
Id. at 549.
However, "[w]hen the original complaint and the plaintiffs
conduct compel the conclusion that the failure to name the prospective
defendant in the original complaint was the result of a fully informed
decision as opposed to a mistake concerning the proper defendant's
identity, the requirements of Rule 15(c)(l)(C)(ii) are not met." Id. at 552.
Here, service of the original summons and complaint were waived
by counsel for Magnotta on December 11, 2014. Magnotta did not timely
file an answer to the complaint. Rather, the time to file an answer or Rule
12 motion was extended on at least four occasions. (Docs. 12, 14, 15, 19).
In the instant motion, the plaintiffs alleged that they made three attempts
to ascertain the identity of Magnotta's supervisor through the Right to
Know Office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office. (Docs. 30
3-4). According to the motion, all of those attempts were denied. (Id. ~ 4).
They acquired Smith's name after serving an interrogatory under Fed. R.
Civ. P. 33 on December 10, 2015. (Id.
7). Shortly thereafter, they filed
the instant motion to amend. Although there is no evidence that the
proposed defendant had actual knowledge of the pendency of the action
against Magnotta, in the Third Circuit, notice may be actual or
constructive. Singletary, 266 F.3d at 195. Constructive notice may be
given through either the "shared attorney" method or the "identity of
Garvin, 354 F.3d at 222-23; see also Taliferro v.
Costello, 467 F. Supp. 33, 35 (E.D. Pa. 1979) (constructive notice is
The proposed amended complaint alleges that Smith was the
supervising agent of Magnotta and based upon that relationship, he knew
or should have known of this action at or near the time it was filed. As
Smith did not have actual notice of the complaint, the plaintiffs can only
prevail on his motion if they can successfully assert that notice of the
action was imputed to Smith. One way to impute notice is through the
"identity of interest" theory. The plaintiffs do not substantially develop
Smith's identity of interest argument, but as they are pro se, we will
construe their motion and supporting brief to advance the identity of
interest method of imputing notice as they have sufficiently identified
Smith as Magnotta's supervisor. See generally Mala v. Crown Bay
Marina. Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 244-46 (3d Cir. 2013) (discussing a court's
obligation to liberally construe pro se pleadings and other submissions).
The "identity of interest" method of imputing Rule 15(c)(3) notice to
a newly named party generally means that the parties are "so closely
related in their business operations or other activities that the institution
of an action against one serves to provide notice of the litigation to the
other." Singletary, 266 F. 3d at 197. In Schiavone v. Fortune, 4 77 U.S.
21 (1986), the Supreme Court approved the identity of interest method of
imputing notice for Rule 15(c)(3) when it stated: "Timely filing of a
complaint, and notice within the limitations period to the party named in
the complaint, permit imputation of notice to a subsequently named and
sufficiently related party." Id. at 29. In Singletary, the Third Circuit
observed that district courts within this Circuit have interpreted this
passage to mean that the Supreme Court has accepted the identity of
interest notice method. Singletary, 266 F.3d at 198. Thus, the relevant
issue is whether Smith has a sufficient identity of interest with Magnotta,
the originally named defendant to impute the notice that Magnotta
received to Smith.
The question before us is, therefore, whether an
employee in Magnotta's position (narcotics agent of the Pennsylvania
Office of Attorney General) is so closely related to Smith as her supervisor
for the purposes .of this type of litigation that these two parties have a
sufficient identity of interest so that the institution of litigation against
Magnotta as a narcotics agent serves to provide notice of the litigation to
Smith, the supervisor.
As Steven has alleged in the proposed amended complaint, Smith
was Magnotta's direct supervisor, and as such, we find a sufficient nexus
of interest to impute notice to Smith for Rule 15(c)(l)(c) purposes. See
Robinson v. Adams, Civil Action No. 09-3587, 2010 WL 3069647, at *3
(E.D. Pa. Aug. 4, 2010) (proposed defendant shared identity of interests
with original defendants when he supervised and with whom he worked
closely); see also Culbreth v. Corll, Civil Action No. 09-04277, 2010 WL
4178489, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 22, 2010) (police officers who worked closely
as partners shared identity of interests); Ward v. Taylor, 250 F.R.D. 165,
169 (D. Del. 2008) (corrections supervisor shared identity of interests with
other administrative and supervisory defendants).
We find that Smith is not prejudiced by being added as a defendant
and his defense will likely mirror Magnotta's defense and thus prejudice
from relation back is unlikely to occur. We find that based upon the state
of the record, the plaintiffs may not have known the true status of the
proposed added defendant at the time they filed their original complaint.
Therefore, the plaintiffs' claims against Smith properly relate back to the
original complaint under Rule 15(c)(l)(c).
Motion to Stay Proceedings and to Clarify
In light of _our decision that the plaintiffs' motion to amend the
complaint be granted, the plaintiffs' remaining motions to stay
proceedings (Doc. 37) and to clarify (Doc. 49) will be denied as moot.
An appropriate order will follow.
United States Magistrate Judge
Dated: January 25, 2017
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